The COVID-19 pandemic, just a few months old, is ravaging families and bringing about unforeseen changes in the institution.
Two techies, actively involved in relief work in Hyderabad for the last few weeks, came face-to-face with a disturbing situation involving a son and a father in the IT corridor of Hyderabad. A senior citizen died of lung complications. Though his wife was infected with novel coronavirus, the deceased tested negative. Even then, there was a great amount of stigma attached to the dead body.
Katragadda Sai Teja and Ramanjeet Singh, who started a unique humanitarian service last week under the banner 'Serve the Needy', received a call from the son. The person wanted the team of IT professionals-turned-activists to take away his father’s body. According to Sai Teja, the son informed that he cannot be a part of the final rites of his father and they can complete the funeral in his absence.
This is just one of the dozens of calls that the team received in the last few days. 'Serve the Needy' was started with an aim to ensure honourable cremation or burial to COVID and non-COVID patients in the city. Currently, the team of ten has started the pilot with one van.
The idea germinated out of their own experiences, according to Ramanjeet Singh. A few days ago, he took it upon himself to cremate his friend’s mother who was a COVID-19 patient as all the family members were under quarantine. It was difficult to get private ambulances and on top of it, each ambulance was charging around Rs 25,000 for a trip from hospital to the cremation ground, he shared. He then had to rely on his contacts in the government to get an ambulance. Even after that, he had to undergo a lot of struggle before the cremation could be completed.
“The family members may not be able to take care of the formalities. They do not even have proper contact with the hospitals. In such cases, who will conduct the final rites? We have observed that at the cremation grounds, two bodies are being burnt together sometimes if there are no family members around. Finding a resting place has also become complicated,” said Ramanjeet explaining why they started this free service.
The van is equipped with body bags and can transport two bodies at a time. Inside the vehicle, the driver’s cabin is separated from the rear chamber by an air proof partition to keep the driver safe. The driver is trained to wear PPE kits and handle the body safely.
“We pay the driver Rs 18,000 per month because we want to motivate him. We have also safeguarded him by providing him with COVID-19 insurance. In future, we want to extend it to his family members,” said Sai Teja.
The services are available from 8 am to 6 pm and the organisation will take complete responsibility of honourably cremating or burying the dead.
Earlier, the same team had won appreciation for supplying dry ration to migrants and helping the needy during the lockdown.